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Texas: DREAMers And Supporters Descend On Austin To Lobby Legislators

DREAMers and their supporters were on the Texas Capitol steps early this morning in preparation for lobbying legislators on S.B. 1819. They are in Austin to speak to the Texas Senate’s Sub-Committee on Border Security. The sub-committee is part of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations. The bill would remove in-state tuition eligibility for certain children who came to America illegally.

The Texas Senate takes up the issue of repealing in-state tuition benefits for children of illegal immigrants living in the Lone Star State. There will be an emotional debate by people in favor of repealing what many perceive to be a magnet for illegal immigration, and supporters of the current in-state tuition law who consider this to be an earned benefit.

S.B. 1819, filed by Texas Senators Donna Campbell, Brandon Creighton, and Lois Kolkhorst, would amend section 54.052 of the Texas Education Code (entitled “Determination of Resident Status”). The bill addresses the determination of resident status of students by public institutions of higher education. It defines the persons who are considered residents of this state for purposes of the Act.

The bill eliminates from the definition of Texas resident a person who graduated from a Texas public or private high school or obtained a high school equivalent diploma and maintained residence for the three years preceding the graduation or receipt of the diploma equivalent. These requirements apply to the year preceding the academic term in which the person is to be enrolled in an institution of higher education.

The Senate bill as proposed adds that “A person who is not authorized under federal statute to be present in the United States may not be considered a resident of this state for purposes of this title.”

Breitbart Texas talked to Montserrat Garibay, a pre-K teacher at Austin Independent School District who was there with the students, speakers, and former DREAMers. Garibay says she “was a DREAMer” who was “able to fix her status.” She is grateful for the opportunities she has had.

Garibay called for DREAMers to meet in Austin to testify and share their stories about how the Texas Dream Act, 77(R) H.B. 1403, has changed the lives of many. The legislation was enacted in 2001 and allows certain immigrants who have been in Texas for a lengthy period of time to become eligible for in-state tuition if they meet certain criteria.

Garibay’s post on her Facebook page asked DREAMers who had a college degree and are “DACAmended” (referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to come to Austin and testify. She urged them to testify because “In-state tuition is under attack, SB 1819 can eliminate in-state tuition if it passes.”

The pre-K educator told Breitbart Texas that she knows many documented teachers who teach in the school district who have benefited from H.B. 1403 and are teaching bilingual education. She also knows many teachers who benefited from DACA and attended the University of Texas and Texas State University. The administrative action of the Obama Administration, which began in 2012, allows qualifying undocumented immigrants who enter the United States before they are 18-years-old to request deferred action from deportation for a period of two years, subject to renewal. It also makes them eligible for work authorization.

The concerned advocates arrived in Austin the night before the sub-committee meeting and received debriefing on what would happen on the day of the hearings. These former DREAMers came from all over Texas – Houston, Brownsville, Dallas, Austin, and elsewhere – to give speeches at the Texas State Capital. They told Breitbart Texas they would be sharing their stories on how in-state tuition has helped them. Garibay said the speakers have overcome many obstacles, including learning English. She said they came to the states when they were very young and now have American values.

Mirla Lopez, from Tampico, Mexico, is living in Houston, Texas now. She told Breitbart Texas that she was one of the earliest beneficiaries of the Texas Dream Act. She started at the University of Texas in Austin in 2002. Lopez said she has been able to help her mother who is a single parent and her three siblings. She is the oldest sibling. She graduated from the university in 2006. Lopez now works with “FACE” (Family and Community Engagement). They educate parents about the importance of being involved in their children’s education. The organization works with school districts and churches and groups, and all races and nationalities. The video program lasts six weeks and the parents become engaged and learn how to facilitate the program themselves.

Garibay told Breitbart Texas it is “Heartbreaking that Texas legislators are playing with the lives and the livelihoods” of those who wish to benefit from these opportunities. She said these young people are “willing to learn the language, work hard, they are just missing their social security cards.”

The educator said “The issue is about Higher Education – not about border security by any means.”

In November, Texas State Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) filed HB 209 in the Texas House to also call for the repeal of in-state tuition. Stickland told Breitbart Texas that “the idea that we would treat someone who is here illegally better than someone who is here from Oklahoma is atrocious.”

In a previous interview with Breitbart Texas JoAnn Fleming, the executive director of Grassroots America, applauded Stickland “for keeping his word” and told Breitbart Texas that granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants was “just one example of how the rule of law has been undermined by elected officials to the point where we have chaos in our nation and folks who believe they ‘deserve’ special treatment,” adding, “it’s time our state officials put Texas citizens and legal residents first.” Fleming continued, “To give illegal aliens preferential treatment over American citizens is a slap in the face, and the American people are just fed up with it. Texans want our southern border with Mexico truly secured and the social enticements to illegal aliens to end.”

Breitbart Texas will be covering both sides of the public testimony on the bill which will happen later on Monday.

This article has been updated.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2

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